FRIDAY FISH: Salmon and Fresh Tomato Salsa on Garlicky Cauliflower Mash…and a Little Plating Fun

FRIDAY FISH: Salmon and Fresh Tomato Salsa on Garlicky Cauliflower Mash…and a Little Plating Fun

With as much fish as we’re supposed to eat for health and six weeks of Friday Fish for Lent every year on this blog (this is now our second Covid Lent), salmon comes up pretty often on our menu. Our friend Chris likes to say, “Puh-leeze give me something else to do with salmon!” Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy serving salmon with at least two vegetables — so you’ve seen a few variations on this theme — hoping to eat less carbs or save them for some bread. I also simply want to increase our vegetable intake. Serving a smaller portion of fatty fish or red meat on a bed of vegetables or just to the side is not only a healthier way to eat (more vegetables), it makes the protein appear larger, more attractive, and puts it front and center for its closeup — an old tried and true restaurant ploy. So if it’s not really something new to do with salmon, it might just look and taste better!

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Lamb Chops with Turnip-Rutabaga Orzo

Lamb Chops with Turnip-Rutabaga Orzo

Meals like this are why you need a stovetop grill pan for the winter.

“Rutabaga” comes from rotabagge, the plant’s Swedish name, meaning “baggy root.” This is, perhaps, the reason that it’s sometimes called a Swedish turnip or simply a swede. Dense and sweetly earthy, a spheroid that can grow to the size of a human head, with a mottled, brown-and-white surface and a buttery, yellow interior, the rutabaga looks like an overgrown turnip—which it is, sort of, at least on its mother’s side. A reproductive quirk of the Brassica genus allows for uncommonly easy hybridization (see the evidence in your local grocery store: kalettes, the frilly little greens that were 2014’s sexy new vegetable, are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts). Somewhere, in the misty meadows of Central Europe, a turnip got frisky with a cabbage, and the rutabaga was born. This genetic history was confirmed only recently, in 1935, by the Korean-Japanese agricultural scientist Woo Jang-choon. But, three hundred years before, Bauhin, with his eye for botanical detail, saw to name the plant napobrassica, the turnip-cabbage.

Helen Rosner, NEW YORKER: “What Rutabaga Does Better Than Anything Else: A Recipe for… (Rutabaga Noodles Cacio e Pepe)”

Doesn’t this woman write in a way that makes you want to read anything she scribbles down on a cocktail napkin? If we could go out for cocktails, that is.


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Slow Cooker Elk Stew for Valentine’s Day Dinner

Slow Cooker Elk Stew for Valentine’s Day Dinner

Date night meals have been unique and even innovative for a lot of folks during the pandemic, mostly because instead of jumping in the car and heading for the nearest $$$$ restaurant, we’ve been forced to plan, create, and cook (clean up/boohoo) at home. Ordering food online or even shopping only once a week to limit time in stores means we must think ahead, deciding on a menu and making sure all of the ingredients are available, ready to use, and even thawed. (I hate thawing.) Not only that, there’s setting the table. Locating a bottle of wine. Turning on some decent music. Maybe finding a movie you haven’t seen. Getting out of your pajamas for dinner. Or not.

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BAKE A HAM FOR SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

BAKE A HAM FOR SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

Super Bowl LV week has arrived in all its glory and, despite the American national religion of watching football not being one of my favorite ways to worship, I’m thinking this year might be different. During the nearly year of Covid-Life, we’ve missed a lot of our regular activities and that’s hurt; we’re shell-shocked across the board. But Super Bowl, the game’s yearly high holiday, will be mostly like it always has been. Not much has changed, hmmm? We’ll be at home gathered around the altar of the BIG TV. Cases of communion beer will be bought and stored in a cold garage; chili or pulled pork could be bubbling in the slow cooker to feed all who come; and tall bags of chips with deep vats of dips might triumphantly work to knock last month’s healthy New Year’s resolutions right into the gutter. There will, as always, be Monday morning hangovers for the Monday morning quarterbacks and, hard as it is to imagine, we’ll then soon be on to March Madness. But in the meantime, it’s life as usual and thank goodness! Even for the unenthused like me, it’s time to get ready for the game, prepare for the halftime show, and plan SUPER BOWL FOOD— everything from endless apps to favorite mains and football-shaped desserts! This year, I might even have a little bit different plan for that meal:

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Rosemary Chicken with Vegetables (Pan Sauce, too!)

Rosemary Chicken with Vegetables (Pan Sauce, too!)

Most months there are probably a couple of roast chickens on the menu at our house whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall. They may be slid unceremoniously onto the grill by husband Dave with only a fast slick of olive oil and a free-handed shower of salt and pepper (see below).

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Turkey Minestrone

Turkey Minestrone

Do you have a container of frozen turkey from the holidays in the freezer?

Just a short drive from our house in Colorado Springs is our favorite Italian market and deli Mollica’s, which is perhaps best known as a popular, packed lunch spot on Garden of the Gods Road just west of I-25. Mollica’s is the happy kind of place that still serves old school “red sauce” meals like spaghetti and meatballs or a very good lasagna (all made with fresh pasta) as well as yummy pizza and calzone — though I couldn’t call it a “pizza place.” A large part of the lunch menu has always been devoted to stellar sandwiches (think grinders from house made sausage, scratch meatballs, heroes, and hot Italian beef) and a full line of filling salads that of course are served with fresh bread and butter. While I’m ready to eat anything Mollica’s makes –check out their dinner specials, too — I nearly always choose a salad because I can also get a cup of their minestrone–a simple and herby vegetable soup that just hits the sweet spot in my tummy. Occasionally I wonder why I don’t make some minestrone at home, but for some reason, I rarely do. That just changed.

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Two Cheese-Broccoli Soup

Two Cheese-Broccoli Soup

Staffordshire CALICO blue plate and bowl

Sometimes I know a couple of weeks ahead what’s coming up on the blog. Occasionally I even cook, write a recipe, take photos, and keep a post for the next season. For the last year, however, I have mostly begun working on the next week’s food within a day or two of the last post, photographing, writing, editing, and rewriting right up until my usual, but occasionally fluctuating deadline. In this case, the “Frozen Bailey’s Mochaccino” (Did you make it?!) wasn’t dry on the page before I was making this soup. I was interested in and then thoroughly inspired by a post of Nigella Lawson’s, “Broccoli and Stilton Soup” on twitter. (I’ve just looked back at it and see she’s even encouraged readers to use whatever cheeses they have on hand — just as I do here! Great minds think alike 😉 ) There was literally and figuratively a bunch of broccoli in the fridge and broccoli cheese soup of some sort, if not totally blue-cheesy, was sounding good for Meatless Monday. Well, the soup was grand if I do say so myself. I even had the recipe written and some decent photos in the can. I did, however, forget to note a couple of key elements like the weight of the broccoli, for instance. Hello, honey!! No choice: I re-ordered the ingredients, made the soup a second time (now as a first course before mushroom pork chops on date night), followed my own recipe weighing everything, and got it all straight for you.

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Frozen Bailey’s Mochaccino

Frozen Bailey’s Mochaccino

For some believers, Christmas only begins December 25. I’m one of those or rather, I work at it. The world often conspires against me, I think. Still, the tree stays up until the Wise People arrive on January 6 (Epiphany) and you can bet there are still Christmas movies for husband Dave and me to watch until then. (We still have “Christmas with the Kranks,” “Christmas in Connecticut,” and “Fred Claus” — at least — to go.) So while other folks have frozen their hambones and relegated the Christmas lights to the dusty garage attic, there is still a (no longer quite so fresh) plate of cookies on the counter, holiday candles lit nightly, and we are committed to enjoying it all for a few more days. As one of my favorite cook-writers Dorie Greenspan said in yesterday’s NYTimes Magazine, introducing her recipe for Mulling-Spice Cake with Cream-Cheese Frosting, “Like most people, I’m sad this year.” I get it. Me, too. I was so glad for Christmas to come along in the midst of all the angst and division and fear — even if it arrived without all the regular bells and whistles. I guess I want it to last as long as it can. For there to be candy canes, inflatable Santas, cheese spread with crackers, and carols booming for just a bit more time. To look out on my deck and still see the colored lights if I wander up in the middle of the night…

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Colorado Yellow Split Pea Soup for New Year’s Day —                                 Got Hambone?

Colorado Yellow Split Pea Soup for New Year’s Day — Got Hambone?

If you drove through Colorado north to south and west to east, you would be fairly amazed at the amount of farmland in the state most often thought of as full of rocky mountains or The Rocky Mountains! You would also be overwhelmed with the beauty of our land.

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Christmas Breakfast Casserole with a Za’atar Bloody Mary

Christmas Breakfast Casserole with a Za’atar Bloody Mary

Turn on a “Cozy Christmas Coffee Shop … Christmas Jazz Music…” while you read.

Christmas breakfast should be, without a doubt, nearly carefree. That being said, it must also be delectable, desirable, and delightful all the while taking care of itself while you open gifts, listen to A CHRISTMAS CAROL, or zoom with the family or friends. Egg breakfast or brunch casseroles — also known as stratas — fit the bill perfectly and are endlessly adaptable to ingredients on hand. This bacon (ham? sausage? veggie crumbles? chorizo?) version topped with brightly colored chopped peppers (mushrooms? tomatoes? jalapeños? zucchini? fennel?) provides six or eight servings but is also perfect for a smaller group who also might enjoy leftovers. That would be us. Though we are rarely at home alone for Christmas, we are this year as are many people all over the world. We’ll make our brunch dish a day ahead, of course, bake it on Christmas morning, and enjoy it over the whole weekend. We might even freeze a couple of pieces for an easy weekend brunch in January.

Serving one? Halve the recipe, which works perfect in an 8 or 9-inch square casserole dish. Relish for a couple of days, share, or freeze.

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